German police have arrested an undisclosed number of people suspected of fixing matches in major European soccer leagues.
The arrests in Germany and abroad came as part of an investigation into match-fixing supported by European soccer authority UEFA, according to a statement Thursday by the prosecutor's office in Bochum.
A Berlin newspaper reported that a Croatian man convicted as the mastermind of a German match-fixing scandal in 2005 was among those arrested Thursday. The Berliner Morgenpost's online edition said Ante Sapina and his brother were among five people arrested in Berlin and that 15 arrest warrants in 10 countries had been issued.
The investigation has been underway for nearly a year and targeted an international gang suspected of wide-ranging match-fixing.
The gang is suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and officials in "high-ranking European leagues" to manipulate games in order to make money on betting, the statement said Thursday.
It said raids were conducted in Germany and elsewhere in Europe on Thursday and a large number of arrests were made. No other details were given. A news conference is scheduled for Friday in Bochum.
UEFA said it was aware of Thursday's action, adding it had been "working closely with German authorities through its betting-fraud detection system for monitoring irregular betting patterns."
The Morgenpost reported that games in the Turkish top division were suspected of being manipulated and that the probe by Bochum investigators targeted 200 people. Top players in Turkey are among the suspects, the newspaper said.
Quoting Berlin security sources, the newspaper said the gang apparently operated from Germany and its boss apparently lived in Berlin.
Ante Sapina was convicted of fraud in 2005 and sentenced to 35 months in prison for fixing or attempting to fix 23 games by paying German referee Robert Hoyzer to rig matches Sapina and his brothers bet on. Ante Sapina's brothers Milan and Filip were given suspended sentences.
Hoyzer was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 29 months in prison after admitting he had manipulated games mostly in German lower divisions on behalf of the three brothers, who made millions by betting on the games.
UEFA said two months ago that it was investigating 40 cases of suspected match-fixing in the Champions League and UEFA Cup, mostly involving eastern European clubs. The matches under investigation were early qualifying games that took place over the last four seasons.
UEFA has beefed up its efforts to protect against illegal betting and match-fixing. President Michel Platini has described those issues as the greatest problem facing European soccer.
The detection system monitors all top two divisions across Europe, and domestic cup games.